Monday morning came with a bang and a groan for everyone who had been at the party the night before. Connor was walking around school like a zombie. The only thing he could hope for was a chance to speak to Daisy during lunch period. So he dragged through the day until noon and then went to the lunch room looking for her.
After a few minutes, Susan walked up to his side. “Some of the seniors are going to the woods for a smoke. Wanna come?” She brushed her hand down his side as she spoke.
“Cut it out Susan. I’m looking for Daisy. If she sees you standing here she won’t talk to me,” he mumbled in an irritated tone.
“You don’t need that little tenth grader, Connor. Come hang out with me today. I’ll make you forget all about her.” She flashed an alluring smile that would make any high school boy nervous.
“Listen, Susan. I was real messed up at that party. I should not have been with you. I should have stayed home. Would you please just forget Sunday night ever happened? It’s not going to happen again,” Connor explained as his eyes continued to search for Daisy in the lunch room crowd.
“Why should I forget about Sunday night? I had fun.” She put her hands on her hips defiantly.
“Well, I didn’t have fun. I’m not going to any more parties without Daisy, so just forget about it. I shouldn’t have been near you,” he returned angrily.
“Well, if you change your mind you know where to find me.” Offended by his brush off, she twirled around and left.
Connor rolled his eyes at her attitude. “I’m not chang’n my mind,” he mumbled to himself. He stood next to the wall of the lunch room the entire period. Daisy never showed up. The bell rang. He wandered off to his next class disappointed that he still had not found her.
Connor quietly changed in the gym locker room for afternoon cross country practice. Jeremiah and Jason were also in the locker room, a row over, getting dressed for wrestling.
“Hey Jeremiah, I’m going to try asking Daisy out, man. Where do you think I should take her?” Jason asked. He seemed unaware that Connor was within earshot.
“Daisy likes to run, that’s all I know. I don’t think she dates yet,” Jeremiah answered.
Jason grinned. “She’s never been kissed that’s for sure. Maybe I’ll take her to dinner somewhere,” Jason mused out loud.
Connor slammed his locker door super loud and stepped out into the aisle. “Daisy runs with me, Jason, you better not ask her anything.”
Jeremiah and Jason started laughing at their sore friend. “Maybe she runs with you, but after last night I don’t think she’ll date you,” Jason returned unmoved by the slamming of the locker door.
“Yeah, you should have seen her by the girl’s bathrooms this afternoon with Maria,” Jeremiah added.
“She’s super pissed off with you, man. Your chances with her are long gone. It’s my turn now.” Jason beamed a challenging grin.
“I’ll straighten out that party mess with her soon enough. You just stay away from her.” Connor turned and stormed out of the locker room fuming.
Andy caught up to Connor and jogged along at his side happily, a little too happy in Connor’s opinion. Andy was doing a particularly lousy job of repressing laughter. Connor wasn’t liking it a bit.
“Shut up, Andy,” Connor growled.
“I can’t help it, man. I have never seen anyone mess up so bad in one night in my whole life. You take the cake,” Andy slapped Connor on the back and laughed some more.
“I can’t find Daisy anywhere. Have you seen her?”
“I know where she is but I don’t know if you want to see her. Dumbo has grown horns since last night, man.”
Connor looked at Andy concerned. “What do you mean?”
“Well, it turns out that Susan wrote your name over all the bathroom walls in all the buildings. Big red hearts, the whole deal! Daisy is furious. Maria found her crying in one of the bathrooms during lunch and tried to talk to her but she won’t talk. Dumbo is on the war path, man. You better hope she doesn’t quit the team. We need her.” Andy slapped Connor’s back again then pointed across the field. “There’s Dangerous Dumbo, right over there. Proceed with caution, man,” Andy chuckled then broke off to run with Mark.
Connor jogged slowly, scanning the runners on the other side of the field. A sudden rush of relief flooded his heart when he saw Daisy, her wild hair bouncing around her tiny frame as she bobbed along the track in between Willie and Grace. He jogged slowly in her direction wondering how he was going to get her away from Willie to talk to her alone. He stretched out his legs and picked up his pace. Taking the turn at the end of the field he let the fresh air blow through his brain.
“What to say, what to say, what to say…,” he mumbled. When he hit the group of runners, he zigzagged through them trying to catch up to Daisy, who was in the lead.
When he caught up to Grace, Daisy and Willie, he jogged behind them quietly.
Willie glanced over his shoulder, “Looks like we have company, do you want me to get rid of him?” Willie looked down at Daisy politely.
Daisy glanced behind her in Connor’s direction.
“Run with me for a while, Day-Day. Let me explain.” His blue eyes were as sad as a navy blanket over a corpse.
“You guys go on,” she said to her friends.
Willie rolled his eyes. “You don’t have to talk to him. I can get rid of him, if you want.” He flashed Connor and angry glance.
“I’d like to see you try it, man,” Connor bit back.
“I want to hear what he has to say.” Daisy dropped back and ran silently at Connor’s side.
Willie and Grace reluctantly moved on to run with some other friends.
After a few minutes, Connor ventured to speak, “Day, I’m real sorry about Sunday night. It should have never happened.” He looked down at her when she didn’t answer. He realized that Andy was right. She was beyond mad. Her eyes were red from crying and her jaw was sternly set in place.
“Is she your girlfriend? Just tell me so we both know!” Daisy jabbed in a horse tone.
“No, Day,” he said meekly. “I don’t have a girlfriend. You know that.”
Daisy’s eyes filled with tears when he said that. Connor was confused so he repeated his statement thinking she didn’t hear him right. “She’s not my girlfriend Daisy.”
Tears slowly dribbled down Daisy’s face. She ran quietly, too quietly. Connor touched her arm to slow her down to a walking pace. He looked sympathetically into her eyes.
“Please don’t cry. I don’t have any girlfriend, okay?”
Daisy looked down at her feet trying to hide her face from him.
“Why does that make you cry?” He was confused.
“You and I go everywhere together. We do homework together, we eat together, do house chores and run together all the time… I thought I was…well, you know…your girlfriend,” Daisy stared at her feet as she walked along.
“Oh. Well, you and I do, do everything together…that’s true. You’re more than just a regular girl for sure, but is going everywhere together the criteria for being a girlfriend?” Connor asked weakly. He didn’t even know the answer to that question himself.
His question just infuriated Daisy all over again! She whirled around and glared at him. “In your opinion Connor Bailey, what exactly is the criterion for being a girlfriend? Please tell me, because I can’t figure you out!” She choked out. The fact that he didn’t consider her his girlfriend really stung deep.
“Uh, I don’t know. I’ve never really thought much about it. I like hanging out with you better than anybody else in the whole world, really I do. But I couldn’t do with you what I did with Susan. I mean, crap, I didn’t mean it exactly how that sounded.” A look of horror came over Connor’s face when he heard his words out loud. He rubbed his forehead in frustration. “Look Day, I don’t really know how to explain it.”
She crossed her arms and stared at him. “Take your time. Cause I need to hear your stupid explanation.”
Connor looked at her, thinking for a moment. “Well you’re just too… too…too something. You’re just too important to get drunk with and kiss. You’re not that kind of girl. You’re the type that always strives to do things the right way. I couldn’t possibly mess around with you. I’m not gonna mess around with anybody anymore, honest. No more drinking. No more kissing. I’m finished, okay?” He looked at her hoping that he’d said something right.
Daisy’s eyes filled up with more tears. “Am I not kissable enough for you? Is that what you’re saying? You can kiss other girls but not me?” She started running again. She was heartbroken.
Connor ran along at her side, “Daisy… Babe… hold up.” He touched her arm trying to get her to walk again. “You’re kissable. Really you are,” he answered in a pathetically sad voice when she slowed down.
“Well, you’ve never tried to kiss me,” she pouted.
“You’re just not, I mean, I couldn’t…I mean… crap, Daisy. You’ve always been like a baby sister to me. When did you move from being like my baby sister to my girlfriend? When did that happen?” He blew out a huge gust of air in hopeless frustration.
She slowed down and looked at him again trying to figure out his meaning.
He touched her fingers and held just the tips of them in his. “Daisy, you’re so special. You’re the kind of girl that I tell my secrets to. You’re the kind of girl that I want around all the time. But you are not the kind that gets drunk and let’s guys kiss’em. You’re not that type, and I don’t want you to be either. I like you just like you are,” he said softly. He hoped he was making sense. A tiny light went on in Daisy’s tear filled eyes that gave him a bit of encouragement.
“Susan thinks she has some kind of chance with you because you kissed her. You shouldn’t do that if you don’t like her. It’s unkind, Connor. What happened to your resolve to do what’s right?” She rebuked softly.
“Yea. I guess, my resolve wavers a bit when you’re not around,” he mumbled.
Daisy squeezed Connor’s fingers then let them go and started running again. He followed.
“So are we good? Do you forgive me?” he asked hopefully.
“Are you going to mess around with other girls again? Because if you are, then no, we’re not good. I don’t like that at all, Connor. I can forgive you if you are asking for me to forgive you, but we aren’t good unless you cut it out. Plus, all that writing Susan did in the bathrooms really needs to go. I can’t look at that every school day.” Daisy picked up her pace. So did Connor.
“Messing around is soooooooooo out, Daisy. It’s out forever. Okay? So can I come to your house tonight?” He flashed lively blue eyes at her and she couldn’t help but smile.
“I’m not going to be home tonight,” she informed him.
Jason’s words from the locker room kaboomed in Connor’s mind. “Where are you gonna be? I want to go,” he whined at the troubling circumstance.
“I’m going to the boardwalk with Willie and Grace. It’s always been a public beach, Connor. You can be there too, if you want.” Daisy picked up her pace a little more letting him just stew for a short moment.
He caught up to her. “What’s happening at the Boardwalk tonight?”
“Jeremiah and Jason are building a bon fire. Everybody is going.” Daisy smiled, happy that she knew some high school news that he’d not heard yet.
“Jason, that sneak,”’ Connor fumed quietly to himself. “Let me come to your place and pick you up. We can walk down together.” The concern in Connor’s voice delighted Daisy tremendously.
“Well, I was going to walk down with Willie and Grace, but I suppose… I could…,” Daisy drifted off and didn’t finish her sentence.
“I’ll tell Willie myself that you are going with me. Please go with me,” he begged.
“Yea, okay. I guess that works just as good.” She smiled again.
Relief flooded Connor’s troubled heart once more.
Just then, Coach Peggy called the group of runners together in the center of the football field. Daisy and Connor jogged over with the rest of the runners to find out what she wanted.
“Most of you have done a great practice today. Others of you did a lot of talking.” Coach Peggy and the other runners all turned and looked at Connor.
Connor stared blankly off into space as though he had no idea what in the world Coach Peggy was talking about.
Andy laughed heartily at Connor’s mock innocence.
Coach Peggy then smiled in Andy’s direction. “Everyone can go get their shower except for the 10 milers. If you’re a 10 miler, please stay back and do four more laps before going home.”
Andy, Maria and Connor stayed back to run a little longer.
Andy threw his towel at Connor and mouthed the words, “Thanks a lot, man.”
“Sorry, but I had to straighten things out with Daisy.” Connor threw the towel back at Andy then leaned down and whispered in her ear, “I’ll come to your place as soon as I’m done.”
“Kay,” was her happy reply.
Willie walked passed them as they whispered.
Connor looked up, triumphantly, “Hey Willie, Daisy’s walking with me to the boardwalk tonight.”
Willie glanced at Daisy. “Are you sure? I don’t mind coming by and getting you.”
“I’m sure. Connor and I have worked things out. I’ll see you there.” Her big happy grin convinced Willie that things were cool.
“Suit yourself,” he said as he walked off with Grace. Daisy followed them to the gym for showers.
Andy and Maria began their four additional laps. Thanks to Connor, they ran with slight attitudes.
Connor watched Daisy walk all the way to the gym before he started to run again. Now that she was okay, he could focus on pleasanter things. He ran alone with only his thoughts to keep him company. Stretching out his limbs he slid into a comfortable stride. He breathed deeply and looked up at the world around him. The sky was blue, the grass was green, the track was red, his world was bright again. He shook out his arms and let the tension drain from every part of his body. Lap 1, lap 2, he made his way around the field at a steady, easy stride.
“Daisy’s imagination is something else,” he mused. “She considers me her boyfriend. When did that happen? What exactly are the deciding points in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship? Maybe I am hitting all those points without realizing it. Certainly kissing should be among the points somewhere. I’ve never tried to kiss her, not even once.” Connor grinned. “Kissing Daisy. Wow, it’d be sweet for sure. I’d have to be ultra careful. She’s so super sensitive.”
He was still lost in thought when lap four rolled around.”Daisy lives in a dream world for sure,” he continued his musing. “But, it’s a sweet world she lives in, and I’m the only person she lets into it.” He smiled as other sweet thoughts of Daisy flooded his mind, one at a time.
Susan ran up to him and suddenly crashed uninvited into his thoughts. “Let’s go to the beach, Connor. Everyone else is.” She held his arm shaking him back into the present world.
He pulled his arm back away from her. “I’m going to see Daisy tonight.” Then he got a sly look on his face. “But ya know what? I heard Jason talking earlier. I think he’s interested in taking you to dinner. Look for him tonight at the bon-fire.”
Susan huffed off, unhappy with his comment.